February 24, 2003

Their propaganda campaign is pathetic

While war may be inevitable at least, that's what we're supposed to believe – the War Party's propaganda campaign is stupefyingly unconvincing. What was billed as a "Support the Troops" rally at the Alamo was held the other day, where "about 1,000" participants waved signs proclaiming "God Supports President Bush." This echoes the President's own remarks, made the same day, in which he declared it was the will of "the Almighty" to "liberate the oppressed people of Iraq." Having abandoned the Constitution, and the foreign policy advice of the Founding Fathers, the President and his supporters have reverted back to an earlier doctrine: the divine right of kings.

Meanwhile, Indianpolis, Indiana, where a similar group rallied in support of mass murder in Iraq, was the scene of a breathtakingly ugly and telling incident, when one chickenhawk confronted counter-demonstrators from Veterans for Peace:

"Things got contentious at the end of the less-than-hourlong demonstration when some at the rally confronted a group calling itself Vietnam Veterans for Peace. 'Go home and eat your wine and cheese, you sissies,' William G. Rice, 40, yelled at the group of about 20 people as they walked away. 'Cowards.' Rice, a laborer, said that although he had no military experience, he thought he understood the political situation better than the veterans. 'I seem to have a better understanding of the price of freedom than they do,' he said."

Such is the moral blindness inspired by our righteous President – and his neoconservative amen corner, who lecture us on the glories of bringing "freedom" and "democracy" to the Middle East – that the men who fought in the muck and mire of Southeast Asia are now "sissies," while this good-for-nothing "laborer" who never fought a day in his life has "a better understanding of freedom than they do."

General Anthony Zinni, retired Marine commander Joseph P. Hoar, and the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam war era, Colonel David Hackworth these are all "cowards," because they challenge the rush to war, while the manly Rice and his fellow chickenhawks are not only morally superior, but gifted with a special insight that entitles them to lead.

"First of all, you know, size of protests – it's like deciding, 'Well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group,'" said the Boy Emperor, when asked about the effect of the recent anti-war rallies on U.S. policy. "The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon, in this case, the security of the people," he said, looking sternly presidential.

Balderdash. This administration doesn't make a move without consulting focus groups. Karl Rove watches the polls, well, like a hawk, and the news is not good for the War Party, even in pro-military, staunchly conservative Alabama. Suddenly, the warmongers themselves are under attack from a growing anti-war movement that's us, folks! and an Associated Press report on the poll numbers attributes the shift in opinion to domestic anti-war sentiment as well as last week's dust-up with Turkey over the terms of their joining the coalition of the bribed:

"These events took a toll on domestic support for military action, according to polls taken last week by the Gallup Organization and the Pew Research Center. Both found that while majorities say they support the basic proposition of disarming Hussein by force, that support is strongly conditional on obtaining UN approval for any war."

With a large majority of the American people leery of war without UN approval, or some kind of international backing, Karl Rove must be having conniptions. This is the reason for the full-scale diplomatic offensive of the past few weeks, meant to bludgeon the French, the Germans, the Russians and the Chinese into line not because the administration cares one whit about international public opinion, but to buttress Bush's own position at home. Pollsters attribute American ambivalence over this war to fears of the aftermath, in which the U.S. will be left alone to bear the postwar burden of policing and reconstruction. And in deep South states like Alabama, for instance, there is the knowledge that a great deal of the burden will fall directly on their shoulders, as the Mobile Register reports:

"Just as in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, however, it's likely that Alabama people will shoulder a disproportionate role in any new conflict. Although the ranks of the Alabama National Guard have shrunk in the last decade, its 15,000 members still make it among the largest state reserve forces in the country. Already, about 4,100 of those troops are on active duty, serving primarily in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and stateside on homeland defense duties. In comparison with other states, 'we would be right at the top' in the percentage of mobilized personnel, said Norm Arnold, a Guard spokesman in Montgomery."

So much for the GOP's "southern strategy." If the Trent Lott affair didn't end it, then this surely will.

Like a veritable sword of Damocles, the threat of a French veto hangs over the War Party's head and calls into serious question the scheduling of this supposedly inevitable war. In order to mobilize domestic support, the President and his war-mad cronies, unilateralists all, have become multilateralists by necessity. But Chirac has made such an issue of this to the cheers of his countrymen that it would be difficult for him to explain why he didn't utter the one word that could possibly slow, if not stop, the American war machine: "Veto!"

As I have pointed out before, once the U.S. made the decision to go to the UN for a resolution, they stepped in it without much thought of extrication. That was the first real quagmire of this war. A major rationale for going to the UN was the argument made not only by Colin Powell but also by the British, who had their own internal political troubles to consider. Now Blair has demanded and gotten a campaign for a second resolution, and if that fails, then all bets are off.

Both the President and his British poodle have talked in apocalyptic terms about how the day of reckoning with Iraq is upon us, but judgement day may dawn for Tony Blair in the House of Commons when war breaks out. His own party and his own voters are in open revolt against this rotten war. Will the anti-war segment of Britain's Labor Party have the courage to bring down their "own" government?

It could just happen, and in that case we wouldn't even have the British to use as a fig-leaf for our isolation. Australia, too, is iffy, with Prime Minister John Howard's pro-invasion position under assault from anti-war members of Parliament, and large numbers opposed to Australian participation without UN approval. With the "coalition of the willing" limited to Israel, Instapundit, Tuvalu and Nauru, will the Bushies embark on a high-risk long-term military campaign with the majority of Americans either opposed or skeptical?

For a number of practical and purely military reasons, any invasion plan set in motion after the Ides of March is liable to cost us, in casualties and time, neither of which the administration can afford to expend. The little Napoleons of the neoconservative set are counting on a short war, a "cakewalk," as leading chickenhawks describe the quick victory scenario. We are bound to experience, in the next few weeks, a veritable maelstrom of war propaganda, a cacophony of war cries and lies so extravagant as to rival any similar past effort.

The great danger of this propaganda technique, with its crudeness and apparent disregard for objective standards of truth, is that it is bound to provoke widespread incredulity. In dialectical revenge against the swaggering excesses of the War Party, the backlash, or "blowback," is already gathering, and, while anti-war protestors marched in their millions in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, and London, the strongest reaction may eventually flare up on American shores.

Add political and cultural turmoil to the toll taken by this war in terms of troops and treasure. The anti-war movement is, in large part, a youth movement. Brought up to believe that America is a democratic republic, today's young Americans see their country becoming an empire abroad and a police state at home. As the land of the free and the home of the brave becomes the land of the Patriot Act and the home of the too-scared-to-protest, the young are standing up to be counted. There is a premonition of insurrection in the air, not only political but also cultural, that could make the 1960s with all its excesses seem like a Sunday school picnic.


In my last column, I pointed out the irony that the chief focus of European opposition to the war is coming from the center-right government of French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, while the Euro-Left is siding with Bush: Blair plus the "ex"-Communist ruling parties of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, all of which are represented in the Socialist International. Several readers wrote to me pointing out that this is not so: Chirac's is alone among center-right governments in Europe to oppose the war. In Italy, Spain, and Portugal, center-right governments have all come out in favor, while the Social Democratic Gerhard Schroeder has come out against. I have two points to make in reply:

The first is that talk is cheap. Silvio Berlusconi and Jose Maria Aznar can make friendly noises and keep their own restive voters from deserting them in droves because neither Italy nor Spain has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and thus what they say or do not say is largely irrelevant. This is fortunate for them, politically, because the second point is that neither Berlusconi nor Aznar represent the true sentiments of their own people, who overwhelmingly oppose this war.

Among the center-right governments of Europe, the only one whose opinion on the war question matters is located in Paris. Furthermore, Chirac, far more than the hapless Schroeder, has taken the lead on this issue, presenting the French plan for extended and enhanced inspections as the alternative to America's war plans. It wasn't Schroeder who rebuked the "Vilnius Group" for their declaration of fealty to their masters in Washington, nor would the Germans even think of asserting themselves so boldly. Thrust into the limelight by circumstance and his own opportunistic instincts, Chirac may yet transcend his own mediocrity and come to symbolize the Gaullist revival.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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